The cost to run a city
What are the everyday costs of running a city and looking after what we have?
Things like making sure rubbish and recycling are collected, maintaining roads and footpaths and keeping your taps running and toilets flushing. Let’s be honest, it’s not as shiny and exciting as a new playground or a community facility – but it makes up around 57% of what Council does day-to-day. So what’s the cost?
How to reduce costs
We've heard from you that the proposed rates increase in the draft Long-Term Plan budget puts too high a cost on Hamiltonians. Elected members are proposing to cut or reduce services from 2025, in an effort to reduce these everyday costs for our community.
On 19 March, we'll ask for your feedback on what services we could stop or reduce, to make savings in future years of the Long-Term Plan.
So, what are our services?
Before we get into that, let’s look at the bang we get for that buck. Based on the current operating costs of $5.60 per resident, per day, we’ve broken down the costs of different services, and what you get for it.
Water management – $1.67
We look after drinking water, stormwater and wastewater by:
• delivering an average of 22 billion litres of high quality, safe drinking water to your tap each year
• maintaining over 2800km of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater pipes - enough to stretch from Hamilton to Brisbane
• running our water treatment plant, which processes 65 million litres per day
• providing drinking water, wastewater and stormwater services to more than 64,000 properties
• processing approximately 1000 litres per second of wastewater at Pukete Wastewater Treatment Plant
• managing stormwater runoff from around 100 km2 of land area.
Transport - $1.37
We keep things moving by:
• maintaining nearly 700km of roads, 178km of cycleways and more than 1900km of footpaths
• looking after 19,648 streetlights, and more than a million square metres of road landscaping
• facilitating more than a million trips on Hamilton’s network by bike, scooter, or other active mode
• getting you picked up at 241 bus stops across the city.
Visitor Destinations - $0.35
Hamilton Gardens, Waikato Museum and Te Kaaroro Nature Precinct.
We make it fun with:
• 90,000 visits to Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato per year
• a team that looks after 32,372 items in our collection
• the iconic Hamilton Gardens, which hosts more than half a million visitors to our 18 unique enclosed Gardens each year
• 25 gardeners who work 365 days a year to maintain this world-class destination
• 450 native and exotic animals living at Hamilton Zoo, who need 1500kg of food a week!
• 183,000 visits to Hamilton Zoo each year, and around 100 school groups.
Explainer: Operating costs
The costs we’re talking about here are the operating costs to run our city. This means the costs to provide regular services, like rubbish collection, and maintenance, like repairing potholes and mowing sports fields. These operating costs should be covered by our everyday revenue, which is mostly made up of rates.
Venues, Tourism and Events - $0.58
We bring in the crowds with:
• three iconic venues, with 34 spaces for hire and a combined capacity of 41,500 people
• more than 1000 events each year, with over half a million attendees
• venues that host both local and international events, including crowd pleasers like FIFA Women’s World Cup, which saw more than 18,000 visitors to the city
• sponsorship funding to help bring a wide range of events to our city
• funding and partnership with Hamilton and Waikato Tourism to showcase Hamilton as a top destination for visitors
• investment into the future of entertainment, with funding for the new Waikato Regional Theatre.
Parks and recreation - $0.54
We keep Hamilton green with:
• 10 million m2 of park, including 145 parks and gardens and 63 sports areas
• more than 85 playgrounds across the city, and 106 public toilets
• over 100,000 park trees and 40,000 street trees
• our cemeteries, community facilities, dog parks and river paths, which all need to be maintained
• 100,000 native seedlings grown in our nursery and more than 46,000 native plantings.
Explainer: Capital costs
We invest in building new things for our city, like new roads, waterpipes or to buy the land for new sports parks. These projects are paid for using debt, and often contributions from central government and developers too. This is the appropriate way to use debt - it's fair because it enables repayments to be shared by generations of ratepayers, who will use and benefit from their construction over many years. Some of your rates are spent on paying back debt for assets we’ve already built, that you now benefit from, like our city’s bridges, treatment plants, reservoirs, event venues.
Community services - $0.45
We provide the things every city needs, including:
• our seven libraries, that host more than 750,000 visits per year and 1.7 million online visits
• librarians who look after the whopping 332,689 items and 32,693 ebooks/audiobooks in our collection
• more than a million items issued each year, including books, games, toys, learning kits, ebooks and audiobooks
• two aquatics facilities with nine swimming pools, attracting more than 375,000 visits a year
• a swim school running three programmes with 1450+ students
• assisting our community with over 220,000 enquiries, including 15,000 antenno reports and and 37,000 requests for service.
Growth - $0.30
We’re a fast-growing city, so we’re investing in:
• five key growth areas – Peacocke, Rototuna, Rotokauri-northwest, central city, and Ruakura
• ways our city can reduce emissions and adapt to climate change as we grow
• planning properly for the future, where we expect to see our population double in 50 years!
• enabling an average of 1200 homes to be built each year, to support a growing city
• building the things our growing city needs, like Te Kete Aronui – Rototuna Library, and a new water reservoir.
Safety - $0.13
We keep our city safe by:
• registering 13,742 dogs each year
• ensuring all newly registered dogs are microchipped
• adopting 163 dogs
• responding to 6345 animal complaints
• issuing 772 alcohol licenses and registering 827 food businesses
• having 21 City Safe officers looking after our city
• removing graffiti across the city, over 72,000sqm of it!
Rubbish and recycling - $0.16
We keep things clean by:
coming to the kerbside of 63,000 households, and collecting each year:
• 3 million kg of glass
• 3 million kg of food scraps for composting
• 7.5 million kg of other recycling in yellow kerbside bins
• and nearly 16 million kgs of general waste from Hamilton households.
Governance - $0.05
We keep it transparent and democratic, by:
• organising and running 68 Council meetings, committee meetings and hearings.
• responding to 436 Official Information Requests, a key part of being a transparent government organisation.
• organising local elections every three years and letting you know they’re happening
• asking for your feedback on how Council is set up, and whether that represents you, every six years
• maintaining important partnerships with Maaori, including working with Waikato Tainui, Te Haa o te Whenua o Kirikiriroa and Ngaati Wairere.
What running our city costs now
Just like the cost to buy groceries, and keep the power on have all gone up, so has the everyday costs to run a city. This year, with inflation, higher interest rates, new Government regulations, and depreciation, the cost is $6.80 per resident, per day to deliver the same services, to the same standard.
Rates for the median home in Hamilton Kirikiriroa are lower than in the other major cities and our neighbouring councils.
The median home in Hamilton Kirikiriroa has a capital value of $830,000 and pays rates of $2838 this year. This is around $800 less on average than the other councils we looked at.
Our rates need to catch up with the costs of running a big and growing city.
So, how do we fund our future in the face of higher costs? More on that in March when we share our plan and ask you what you think.
Consultation on the 2024-2034 Long-Term Plan opens on 19 March.
Last updated 26 February 2024